High School Sports

Andre C. Fernandez: Rematches key in high school football playoffs

Five of the games in the second round of the playoffs this week are rematches between teams that decided district titles earlier this season.

But in the case of Central-Carol City and Coral Gables-Columbus, you have two district runners-up that have proven they can win state championships or at least make it to Orlando (Central and Columbus), and two champions that are having great seasons (Gables and Carol City) that could mark a shift in the balance of each rivalry.

So will the past prevail, or is it time for change?

▪ Region 4-6A semifinal at Traz Powell — Central (8-2) vs. Carol City (9-2): Carol City edged Central in a game in which it lost star quarterback Stephen Calvert to injury and relied on defense to pull out an 8-7 win. Calvert is back and has led the Chiefs to tremendous victories all season. But are the Chiefs, who clearly have the more potent offense in this game, good enough to take down Central and its stout defense, which loves rushing the quarterback? Central’s offensive woes have been a concern all season. In this type of game, maybe it’s the Carol City defense that makes the decisive play and ends the Rockets’ run. Or maybe not? Andre’s pick: Central 10, Carol City 7.

▪ Region 4-8A semifinal at Tropical — Columbus (10-1) vs. Coral Gables (10-0): Coral Gables punished Columbus throughout a lopsided clash for the district title last time the two teams met three weeks ago. The Explorers were without starting quarterback Alex Ros in that game, who was out with a collarbone injury. Ros returned last week and should make this a closer game. If Gables’ defense can play with the kind of tenacity it did in the first meeting, it might not matter who is throwing the football. The running games will decide this one. Andre’s pick: Columbus 14, Coral Gables 13.

▪ Region 3-8A semifinal — Flanagan (8-2) at Deerfield Beach (10-1): This one’s the best of the non-rematch games. Two teams that have hit a bump in the road or two this year but believe they are still state title contenders in Class 8A. Deerfield has the home-field advantage, which has often made a difference over the years for the Bucks. But Flanagan hasn’t forgotten that heartbreaking loss at Deerfield two years ago and has a motivated, complete team. Andre’s pick: Flanagan 17, Deerfield Beach 14.

▪ Region 4-5A semifinal — Hallandale (9-2) at American Heritage (9-1): With a balanced attack running and throwing the ball, Heritage quarterback Jason Brown took the spotlight from Hallandale quarterback Tyler Huntley in the first meeting between these two. Huntley should play better this time around, so expect a closer game. But Heritage’s defense will settle the outcome. Andre’s pick: American Heritage 37, Hallandale 20.

▪ Region 4-8A semifinal at Harris Field — Southridge (7-4) vs. South Dade (9-1): It’s NASCAR weekend in Homestead. But the cars and trucks won’t be the only displays of speed in the area. Expect a closer game than the first meeting between these two. South Dade and its power offense is tough, however, and if it can establish itself with the running game early, the Bucs should have enough to outlast the Spartans’ aerial attack and defeat Southridge again. Andre’s pick: South Dade 28, Southridge 16.

▪ Region 4-7A semifinal at Tropical Park — Sunset (10-1) vs. Mater Academy (9-1), 7 p.m., Saturday: The key to this game could be the running game. Mater gave up more than 200 yards at Nova last week. And if Sunset has done one thing great during this memorable season, it’s run the football. Andre’s pick: Sunset 24, Mater Academy 17.

▪ Region 4-7A semifinal — St. Thomas Aquinas (9-1) at Dwyer (10-1): Aquinas lost 35-28 in the regional finals in the 2013 season to Dwyer, interrupting what the Raiders are trying to do this season — win back-to-back state titles. Aquinas has proven its depth is second to none, and despite having some of its own key starters out, their backups have started enough games now to pull it through this road test. Andre’s pick: Aquinas 37, Dwyer 17.

▪ Region 4-4A final — Booker T. Washington (6-5) at Belle Glade Glades Central (8-3): Expect Glades Central to make this trip anything but cozy for the Tornadoes. The Raiders will be motivated to avenge two prior playoff defeats to Booker T. ,and this one should be closer than those that were decided by 22 and 28 points. But the Tornadoes still have enough to get through this obstacle and set up another potential showdown with Cocoa. Andre’s pick: Booker T. 35, Glades Central 28.

▪ Region 4-2A final — Dade Christian (10-1) at Naples First Baptist (10-1): So much for thinking the Crusaders had a tough task on their hands last week. Scoring on its first six possessions, Dade Christian routed Community School to win its first playoff game since 2012 when it advanced to the Class 2A state final. But this is a tough task on t he road for a young squad. Andre’s pick: First Baptist 35, Dade Christian 34.

NOTE: All games at 7:30 p.m. Friday unless noted.

Andre’s record — Dade (Last week): 11-1 (.917); Season: 260-57 (.820); Broward (Last week): 14-0 (1.000); Season: 232-51 (.820).